Saturday, October 11, 2008

In Review--Musica Colombia!

Lucia Pulido
Luna Menguante
Adventure Music

Ever since I heard Marta Gomez and Toto La Momposina's tracks on Putumayo Presents Women of Latin America, I have fallen in love with the rich polyphonic rhythms, vocal styles and instruments of Colombia. Then after listening to Marta Topferova play these rhythms on her cuatro, my love for this music grew even more immense.

Lucia Pulido hails from Colombia so those rhythms and vocal styles swim in her blood. She and the musicians in her band reside in New York City, where I hear a strong South American community exists. Her recording, Waning Moon (luna menguante), combines sultry urban jazz with traditional music. Pulido contributes not only spellbinding vocals, especially the magical vocals that resemble Baka pygmy yodels, but she also plays that wonderful South American lute, the cuatro, along with percussion.

Of course when I say maracas, and we are talking about maraca playing from places like Venezuela and Colombia, I must mention that the players from those countries are virtuoso. Sebastian Cruz comes on board with guitar, maraca, cymbals, Adam Kolker plays a mean clarinet and flute, Stomu Takeishi brings in that jazzy bass and Ted Poor plays drums and tambora. As you can see from that instrument lineup, this is not your traditional Colombian fare. It feels much more international, fresh, raw and alive--and that is saying a lot.

The Thatch-roofed Canoe, The River King and the South American favorite, Full Moon Song stand out as favorites for me. However, I am enjoying this entire album, its twists and turns, its percussive grooves (if I can use that word), and Pulido's vocal phrasing. The rich timbre of her voice alone creates a worthwhile musical journey. And she will take her listeners all over the place--some times she send them soaring. It's a journey you don't want to miss.


In Review---Afro-Celtic Fusion & Beyond

Baka Beyond
Baka Live
March Hare Music

Call of the Forest
Favorites Of The Baka Beyond
White Swan

What is not to love about the international Afro-Celtic fusion group Baka Beyond? In this day and age of doom & gloom, these musicians get people on their feet dancing to acoustic African groove married to shimmering Celtic fare. Not only that, founders of the BB, Su Hart and Martin Cradick should be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for all of the work they have done with the Baka Pygmies of the Cameroon forest. Well, maybe another year...

In the meantime, Baka Beyond & Baka Gbine's Baka Live gives listeners a chance to hear electrifying performances. The gaps between indigenous and non-indigenous people, Celtic and African music have all been bridged. We end up with a rich celebration of cultures and a friendly vibe that can only leave smiles on people's faces. I know that I smile a lot when I listen to these recordings. You can almost hear the dancing going on and certainly the excitement from this Afro-European brew. Kind of leaves me wondering why imperialism happened in the first place, when something softer like musical exchange would have left people less stressed out.

Live versions of Bambole, Sad Among Strangers with its gorgeous lilting vocals, Kobo, Bokissa and Boulez, Boulez, just to name a few soar off of this CD. Martin's guitar work and the tight musicianship of these players might entice listeners to catch this band in concert. (Which I will be doing next month).

Call of the Forest acts as a compilation of Baka Beyond favorites taken from studio albums ranging from 1995 to 2004. This is a fundraising album for the nonprofit One Heart-Global Music Exchange. The back cover reads, "Through Global Music Exchange--dubbed 'One Heart' by the Baka women-Baka Beyond give back to the rain forest culture that inspired them."

So if you feel like spreading kindness in the world, start by gifting yourself with one of these CDs and know that your money is going towards a fantastic cause.